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JDM Engines

I posted a question several weeks ago about my Honda Civic with 346,000 miles and whether I should fix it or junk it. So I did some research, and I found this place in town that can install an imported Honda engine for around $1400 total. I’ve read that in Japan, people tend to get rid of their cars at around 50,000 miles, and many of those engines are exported to other countries, including the US. Supposedly, these motors are in good shape, have 50K or less miles. This sounds like it would be a good deal, considering my situation. Anybody on here have any experience or knowledge about these JDM motors?

Again, my credit isn’t very good, so financing doesn’t seem to be an option, and it will take about a year to save to pay cash for a decent car. If what this shop told me is true, I should be able to get everything done to the car I need for around $2500. Isn’t that worth taking a serious look at?

I know (and have helped) a lot of people who’ve done this. Whether it works out well depends entirely on the motor. Nippon Motors has been a good source in the past, but the last time I installed a used Japan motor that didn’t come out of a car we already had was many years ago, so I could be out of date on that. The condition of the motor can run from pretty much perfect to “needs a little work.” Don’t expect anything that bolts on the motor to be guaranteed working, if it’s even there at all (distributor, starter, etc). Total crapshoot whether whoever prepped the motor left that stuff on. For that reason, if you can and budget is your main concern, it’s good to get the same motor that’s in your car now.

And that can be tricky, because the Japanese versions of cars, especially the older Civics, tend to have more powerful motors than their American counterparts. That’s great if you want a cheap power upgrade, but if you go from, say, a D-series to a B-series engine, you’ll need to swap transmission, axles, and ECU as well.

My neighbor back in NYC did this when the engine in his Mazda 323 turbo blew up.
He hunted one down from a similar car with a larger turbo, and beefier transmission, and went to town on his little car.

Worked out quite well for him, so it can be a good choice.


The practice or idea is not doomed to failure if everyone plays by the rules, but we know that people often don’t play by the rules. One thing I worry about is a shop avoiding the contractural promises it made by simply closing up shop and opening up under a different name.

I don’t think you are going to find the best and brightest mechanics doing this type of work simply because the money is not there too pay them as it can’t be there when total estimates are so low. One of the first cost cutting methods is to pay the mechanic less, this causes the good ones to walk.

You could get an entire car for less, and it may be a good idea to try to find one.

At that age and mileage I would take a few other things into consideration.
This would include any possible severe rust issues, what shape the transmission is in, and the suspension.

Rust can be a complete car killer financially and transmissions/suspension work can get very very pricy depending on what is needed.

An entire car for less than $2500 is going to be a complete beater (not that mine isn’t one), that I would have no idea how it’s been cared for. At least with my car…I KNOW how it’s been maintained. I did all the maintenance. I’ve had this car since it was practically new. I know what’s wrong with it, what it needs, and what it will potentially need. It’s never been in a wreck. There is no rust. I KNOW this car. To me…it makes more sense financially to put the money into my car, than into something that I have no clue where it’s been, or what it’s been through.

I’ve checked the car out…there is no rust anywhere that I can see. Other than the engine…this car is in very good shape.

Another issue is that Japan does not have the same emissions laws as the United States, so an imported engine may not have the proper ports for EGR or PCV, etc. The engine may run finne when you install it, but the first time you take it for emissions testing, you will fail for not having the required equipment. And there is no waiver amount for illegally modified or missing equipment, so this could be spendy, or garage your car permanently.